Northeren Lights (Aurora Borealis)-


The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are are beautiful dancing ribbons of purple and green light caused by solar storms which sends charged particles from a solar storm towards the earth.
They are usually blocked by the earth's magnet field, but when Earth's magnetic field is overwhelmed, the aurora can dip will into the United States and Europe.

The Earth's magnetic field causes the Northern Lights to dance by trapping trapping the charged particles and drawing them towards the poles. When the magnetic field lines snap back, the charged particles are launched towards the Earth's surface and collide with gases in the upper atmosphere. These collisions produce tiny flashes of light that create the appearance of movement, or dancing, in the sky.
When viewed from southern latitudes they appear to be a solid color.

Where to See the Northern Lights:
They are usually only visible from the north above the artic circle at 60° latitude. e.g. Greenland; Fairbanks Alaska; Aurora Village, Northwest Territories [Winter], Canada; Whitehorse, Yukon [Autumn, Winter, Spring], Alaska; Curchill Northern Studies Center, Manitoba [Autumn, Winter], Canada; Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland; and Norlisk, Siberia.
See Northern Lights at Travel and Leisure

The aurora borealis can be visible from late August to mid-April under clear, dark skies, but are weaker than sunlight from May to July and most of August. In Lapland, the northern lights are visible on about 200 nights a year, or every other clear night, and the chances of seeing them increase the further north you go.

On May 10th and 11th, 2024 a G4 Solar storm (see below) produced Northern Lights visible in much of the United States. This was very unusual. People I know have never seen the Norther Lights in California. I could not find a record of any occurrence. My father said he saw them once from the Sacramento Valley which was probably in the 1930's.

When can you see them:
Some say you have a 90% chance of seeing the aurora borealis, or northern lights, in Fairbanks, Alaska if you stay at least three nights and actively look for them each night. Others recommend staying four to five nights to increase your chances.
In Lapland, Fineland the northern lights are visible on about 200 nights a year, or every other clear night
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, otherwise known as Fairbanks’ official aurora season, is from late August to late April. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of the year, there’s not enough darkness to see the aurora properly.
The highest chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks between 9 PM and 3 AM.
See Aurora Chasers Fairbanks
and USAF/NOAA SOLAR GEOPHYSICAL ACTIVITY 3-DAY FORECAST

WebCams:
Northern lights webcams:| explore.org
Webcams in Alaska, Canada, Norway, and Finland | Travel and Leisure

Every few years they are visible in places like Washington state, Minnesota, upper Michigan and Wisaconsin and Northern New England.

Cruises:
Northern Lights Cruises are popular in Alaska, Fineland, to Greenland and other places.

Some say you have a 90% chance of seeing the aurora borealis, or northern lights, in Fairbanks, Alaska if you stay at least three nights and actively look for them each night. Others recommend staying four to five nights to increase your chances. Season:
In Alaska, the so-called "aurora season" runs from late August and late April, peaking in March.
They are more prevalent at peaks in the 11 year solar cycle.
The current cycle will peak between November 2024 and March 2026.

See video.


On May 10, 2024 a massive solar storm, the first G-Scale 4 geomagnetic storm to reach Earth in two decades, since October 2003.
Note some reports called it an M5 storm. This is a different classification not to be confused with G5 whch is the most severe kind.
It was classified as a KP X8.7 flare. This is a scale where 9 is the highest.
See solar flare categories.


Timing:
At 6 PM Thursday May 9 the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center after updating their model by taking into account a X2.2 flare from AR3664 issued a Severe (G4) level geomagnetic storm watch for May 11, 2024
It was actually visible on Friday May 10 and Saturday from 10 PM to 2 AM.

It was predicted to be visible in only a few northern US states and north, however it created northern lights that were visible as far south as central California, Atlanta Georgia and the Caribbean.

You only get this kind of viewing when the storm is aimed right at the earth.

The solar storms that cause the northern lights are hard to predict, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center, but experts believe that they may be visible again in the U.S. at some point between November 2024 and March 2026, when the latest solar cycle peaks.

"May 2024 has already proven to be a particularly stormy month for our Sun. During the first full week of May, a barrage of large solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) launched clouds of charged particles and magnetic fields toward Earth, creating the strongest solar storm to reach Earth in two decades — and possibly one of the strongest displays of auroras on record in the past 500 years."
" Source: How NASA Tracked the Most Intense Solar Storm in Decades

See Solar Cycle 25 | Wikipedia


Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Davis California on May 10 2024, by Phyllis Seelye.
You could barely see it with the naked eye, but new digital cameras can capture images like this. (see below)
The color depends on the gases the particles collide with, oxygen or nitrogen and the hight. It was read from oxygen above 150 miles.
Gas in the Atmosphere Color of Aurora
Oxygen (up to 150 miles altitude) Greenish-yellow
Oxygen (above 150 miles altitude) Red
Nitrogen Pink, violet, and occasionally blue
It was only visible on 2 nights.


Northern lights from Idaho: (click image to enlarge)
   
Viewing Northern Lights:
The 2024 northern lights were barely visible with the naked eye, when you got away from light pollution in town. but with the camera in modern mobile phones in night mode you can get picture like this in the city.

This is because inside the human eye, there are two types of cells used for seeing. The "cone" cells are sensitive to colour but need plenty of light in order to function, whereas the "rods" cells are sensitive to low light levels but cannot distinguish colour.
Phones use a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) to detect light, which does not have this problem.

Most newer phones ( iPhone 11 and above, Samsung Galaxy S20 and above).
Explore the best camera settings for photographing the Northern Lights. | Adobe

Links:
video
Solar Cycle | Wikipedia
solar flare categories.
Largest Flare yet from Solar Cycle 25 on May 14. | Goddard Space Flight Center - NASA
How NASA Tracked the Most Intense Solar Storm in Decades
Explore the best camera settings for photographing the Northern Lights. | Adobe
What causes the Northern Lights? aurora-borealis-explained | Royal Museum Greenwich (RMG)
Solar flare confirmed as biggest | BBC
Solar_cycle_25 | Widipedia
Solar_cycle | Wikipedia